I feel that if I had known what was before me, I should never have had the courage to begin.
FRANCIS HODGKINS, MAY 19131
Short though it was, Frances Hodgkins's last visit to New Zealand in 1912-13 was a significant one. On her return from Europe, she exhibited recent works with some success in her home town of Dunedin and also in Wellington where her mother and sister then lived. Not only did she sell some watercolours which entered local collections but there were reviews of her exhibitions at Australian and New Zealand venues as well as accounts in newspapers based on interviews with the artist. Her quoted comments provide some telling clues as to how she saw herself at that time. This visit ended her direct contact with New Zealand and concludes the early phase of her painting career.
From her remarks it is clear that she valued her overseas success in Paris, limited though it was, as her greatest achievement. "'A Dunedin Girl who Conquered Paris'" read the headline in the Otago Daily Times. 2 This was despite the fact that she had originally gone to England and it was there, not in France, that her artistic reputation would be made. She observed that the artist 'craves naturally for Paris'. 3 It was in Paris that she found the excitement and openness to modern painting missing in London. 'The French are so eager for new ideas; they give them such a welcome; and the progress must come with new ideas, mustn't it? We can't go on with modern minds painting like the old masters.' 4
Yet the Dunedin article acknowledged that her recognition had been limited. 'In her own art, in her own circle, among Parisian painters in watercolour, Miss Hodgkins has succeeded, has "arrived". A small success, yet a definite arrival.' 5 One sign of this success was her appointment as a teacher at the Académie Colarossi. She was, apparently, the first woman to hold such a post. Colarossi's was a rival to the more famous Académie Julian which had studios in both Right and Left Bank locations. Its fees were much lower than Julian's and its courses flexible enough to allow terms of one week's instruction. 6
Frances Hodgkins must have known that watercolour was not the preferred medium of major French painters. Yet she used only watercolour up to that time. French artists used
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Publication information: Book title: Frances Hodgkins:Paintings and Drawings. Contributors: Iain Buchanan - Author, Michael Dunn - Author, Elizabeth Eastmond - Author, Frances Hodgkins - Author. Publisher: Auckland University Press. Place of publication: Auckland, N.Z.. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 7.